State

Stephen Foster statue stood for 118 years. Racial complaints just sent it on its way.

The saga of composer Stephen Foster, creator of Kentucky's state song, "My Old Kentucky Home," added another chapter Thursday related to America's slave era.

A 118-year-old statue of Foster, honoring him and another creation of his, “Oh! Susanna,” was removed from a Pittsburgh park Thursday after criticism that the work is demeaning because it includes a slave sitting at his feet, plucking a banjo.

In October, the Pittsburgh Art Commission voted to take the sculpture out of Schenley Plaza and find it a new home. For now, it will remain in a storage lot, out of the public view.

Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night!" was said to be inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe's abolitionist novel, "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

On Thursday, workers used straps and construction equipment to lift the 10-foot-bronze statue off its base. It was strapped to a flatbed truck and taken away.

The Giuseppe Moretti statue was completed in 1900 and thousands attended its dedication.

The shoeless banjo player is based on “Uncle Ned,” a fictional slave and subject of a song by the same name. Critics have long decried the statue as racist.

“It’s the single most offensive display of public art in Pittsburgh, hands down,” Paradise Gray, a hip-hop activist, musician and writer, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in August . “It permanently depicts the black man at the white man’s feet.”

Others say it highlights that Foster was inspired by black spirituals. Some historians contend the 1848 song is actually an early, subtle anti-slavery song.

A statue honoring an African-American woman will be put up in its place. Residents can submit nominations.

Foster, a Pittsburgh native, is often called the father of American music and was known for enduring tunes from the 1800s.

The Western Hills High School Chorus opened the 2016 General Assembly by singing My Old Kentucky Home in the House of Representatives at the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort.

His songs include “Camptown Races,” “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Old Folks at Home” (Swanee Song).

He died penniless in New York City in 1864 at age 37.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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